Sources in the Egyptian government on Wednesday evening denied that Cairo had sent 800 soldiers to fight the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The officials disputed earlier reports of the first Egyptian deployment in Yemen, the Ynet news website reported, a move set to bolster the ranks of a coalition of Gulf states fighting the Houthis, a group which practices a version of Shiite Islam and is supported by Iran.
According to Reuters, four Egyptian units of between 150 and 200 troops arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, along with tanks and other military vehicles.
“We have sent these forces as part of Egypt’s prominent role in this alliance … the alliance fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states, and the death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honor and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people,” a senior Egyptian military source was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The number of foreign troops on Yemeni soil is around 2,000 according to Yemeni officials, but Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab Qatar-based TV station, said there are at least 10,000 soldiers in the country.
The Egyptian army is considered one of the strongest in the Arab world and uses advanced US-made equipment, including Abrams-type tanks.
The crisis in Yemen has been going on for more than a decade, since 2004, but earlier this year Saudi Arabia launched a major ground incursion in the country, in a bid to get rid of the Houthis and reinstate the internationally recognized Sunni government led by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The UN noted that the death toll in May this year reached almost 650 people, with some 1,300 wounded.